Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sayonara


Sayonara; Drama, USA/ Japan, 1957; D: Joshua Logan, S: Marlon Brando, Patricia Owens, Miiko Taka, James Garner, Red Buttons, Martha Scott, Miyoshi Umeki, Ricardo Montalban

Lloyd Gruver is a US Air Force pilot during the Korean War. He takes a vacation to Kobe, Japan, where he meets his fiance again, Eileen. He also participates at the wedding of his friend Joe Kelly who marries a Japanese girl, Katsumi. Lloyd doesn't support such a mixed marriage, but tolerates it. When Eileen persuades him to watch a play in a Kabuki-theater, he gets fascinated by performer Hana-Ogi. He meets her „accidentally“ numerous times, until she gives in and goes out with him. They start a relationship. But the military is against interracial marriages and doesn't allow US citizens to bring their Japanese wives to the US. Because of a decree that orders him to return back to the US alone, Kelly commits suicide. Lloyd decides to marry Hana-Ogi and says „Sayonara“ to the military.

The calm and smooth drama „Sayonara“ is even by today's perspective hardly a classic, but its deeply honest and ambitious tone that handles the taboo subject of an inter-racial love relationship and racism still gives it a spark of intrigue. Precisely because of such a serious theme, the movie was very well received by the critics: Marlon Brando and Red Buttons became – until „Lost in Translation“ – the only American actors that were nominated for an Oscar for a film that is entirely set on the territory of Japan, while Buttons and actress Miyoshi Umeki even went on to win the award for best supporting actor and actress. „Sayonara“ leads its story in a refreshingly measured way, whereas all the character developments were handled in a convincing manner, except for the too easy way Hana-Ogi falls in love with Lloyd, which comes more all out of blue than something that seems natural. Joshua Logan's direction is very good, yet today the film still seems dated in some aspects. When compared to another Brando film, „A Streetcar Named Desire“, where Kazan directed almost every scene in an explosive way, „Sayonara“ seems lukewarm at moments. Still, the way the story makes an analysis about one injustice is surprisingly even, the Japanese mentality is handled with adequate care, some details are marvelous (two rocks in the sea connected by a rope are declared to be in „marriage“) while Brando gives one of his most forgotten, touching speeches – when Hana-Ogi, troubled by all the problems that could happen if they get married, asks how their kids will look like, Brando's Lloyd replies with a wonderfully sincere answer that says everything: „They are going to be half Japanese and half American. Half Yellow and half White…They are going to be half you and half me.

Grade:++

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